A Guide to Restaining Bathroom Cabinets

What You'll Need
Safety glasses
Latex gloves
Face mask or respirator
Masking tape
Drop cloths
Varnish remover
Sandpaper
Plastic scraper
Wood stain
Varnish
Varnish brush

If you're considering restaining bathroom cabinets, you should begin the process with a careful assessment of the existing cabinets. Are they merely in need of refinishing or should they be replaced instead? If the cabinetry is solid with wood that merely needs a fresh look, then restaining bathroom cabinets will take care of the problem. This procedure is relatively easy and quick, and within two weekends, homeowners can have their bathroom cabinets looking like new.

Step 1 - Assess the Cabinets to Make Sure They're Functioning Properly

Begin by carefully inspecting the bathroom cabinets to make sure the wood is solid, without any structural damage caused by water. Make sure that the doors fit properly, are not swollen or ill-fitting, and that they are still in relatively good condition. There is no sense in restaining bathroom cabinets if they are in need of replacement. Be sure that the hinges, door knobs, and catches are all functional as well. If anything needs to be fixed or replaced, now is the time to do it.

Step 2 - Choose an Appropriate Wood Stain

In deciding which stain to use on your bathroom cabinets, consider the actual wood they're made of. If the cabinets are made of good quality wood, oak or cherry wood, it would be sensible to stain them according to their natural finish. Additionally, many woods can take a different stain, even if they are not of that species. For instance, bathroom cabinets that are made of pine will easily take other stains like a golden oak or a red cherry.

Step 3 - Practice Safe DIY

Since you will be removing the existing finish from the cabinets and working around dust and chemicals, it's important to take proper precautions for your health. Before beginning any work on restaining bathroom cabinets put latex gloves and safety glasses on to protect your hands and eyes. Use a face mask or respirator to avoid dust from sanding and from inhaling toxic fumes. You should also attach drop cloths (using masking tape) in the bathroom where necessary so as not to damage nearby fixtures, flooring, or carpeting.

Step 4 - Remove the Old Wood Finish from the Cabinets

Someone sanding down wood cabinets.

Once you've outfitted yourself in protective gloves and glasses, remove the old cabinet finish by applying a liquid stripping compound. Read the manufacturer's directions on the packaging for the product carefully before applying. You can physically remove the old finish with a combination of steel wool, a plastic scraper, and sandpaper. Work carefully on the old finish, since many bathroom cabinets are made of wood with a very thin veneer which is easily damaged or stripped if sanded too vigorously.

Step 5 - Apply the New Stain to the Cabinets

Someone dipping a paint brush into a wood stain container.

Carefully the read manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging before applying new stain to the wood. A good technique to follow when restaining bathroom cabinets is to apply a coat of the stain in an inconspicuous place to see what it will look like before applying it to the entire surface of the cabinets. When satisfied with the desired look of the stain, let it dry thoroughly before applying several coats of varnish.

Step 6 - Apply Varnish to Seal and Paste Wax to Waterproof

There are many products that are suitable for applying a final finish after restaining bathroom cabinets. The key to the final finish is to be patient and wait for the recommended time before applying the next coat. Apply the first coat of varnish in a 50-50 ratio of varnish and mineral spirits. When this coat is thoroughly dry, apply a second coat of 75 to 25 percent varnish and mineral spirits. The final finish would be two coats of 100 percent varnish sanded with 0000 steel wool between each coat. A final coat of hard paste wax can be applied to ensure that the cabinets are waterproofed (which is especially important in a bathroom!).

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